Bradford and Calderdale seek judicial review

Bradford incinerator

Artist's impression of PRR's Bradford plant

Bradford and Calderdale Councils are seeking a judicial review after Defra withdrew £62.1 million of private finance initiative (PFI) credits from their waste management project, funding that was originally worth £120 million over a 25 year period.

The councils claim the credits were withdrawn ‘without any consultation or prior notice’ from Defra. They also state that they had not been made aware that Defra was reviewing its support for the project in November 2012, and that if the councils had been notified at this point they could have saved £2.7 million in costs.

The project itself, a planned waste treatment plant to be built by Pennine Resource Recovery (PRR) in Bowling Back Lane, Bradford, was expected to treat 193,000 tonnes of waste every year. The councils state that the incinerator would have diverted ‘most’ of Bradford and Calderdale’s waste from landfill, generating enough electricity to power 20,000 homes in the process.

Although the option of continuing the project without Defra funding was considered, it was decided that such an option would either be too expensive or would ‘expose both councils to an unacceptable financial risk’.

Withdrawal ‘detrimental to Bradford and Calderdale’

A statement from Bradford Council claimed that, since being notified in February that funding would be withdrawn, councillors asked Defra  to provide the information it used in making its decision. This included a meeting between councillors and Resource Minister Lord de Mauley, in London. However, the councils state that the information they requested ‘has not been forthcoming’.

Bradford and Calerdale have therefore taken the decision to apply to High Court for a judicial review into the matter. This would be based on four key issues:

  • whether Defra had the authority to withdraw the PFI funding;
  • whether the decision itself was lawful and ‘taken for proper reasons’;
  • whether Defra should have notified the councils that it was reviewing funding in November 2012; and
  • whether Defra should have consulted with the councils before deciding to withdraw funding.

Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “We feel that Defra’s decision has left us with no option but to apply for a judicial review. The investment in a new waste treatment plant should have led to major savings for Council Tax payers in both local authorities, yet instead we are now left with major costs and the need to find an alternative solution for our waste.”

His sentiments were echoed by Councillor David Green, Leader of Bradford Council, who said: “With our partners in Calderdale, Bradford Council had worked extremely hard to get to such a late stage in the procurement before the surprise decision to withdraw funding was made.

“The project was designed to increase recycling rates, create energy from residual waste, divert waste from landfill, regenerate a large area of the district and create jobs in the construction and operation of the plant - which would have come on-stream in 2015/16.

“We think Defra’s decision is very detrimental to Bradford and Calderdale, not only to the local economy but also to the environment, as well as leaving both councils with the major problem of how to get rid of our waste in the future.”

Other councils affected

The news comes just a day after North Yorkshire County Council submitted an application for a judicial review into the withdrawal of its own waste infrastructure funding by Defra.

Richard Flinton, Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said the decision was made to seek a judicial review because the withdrawal was not done “in a proper manner”.

He said: "We consider that the Secretary of State has not made the decision to withdraw our credits in a proper manner and that he has failed to follow Defra's own published criteria. We also consider him to have failed to take account of the waste management obligations in the Waste Framework Directive; failed to consult with us on his decision; and failed to give proper reasons for his decision.”

Merseyside Council was the third and final local authority to be affected by the cessation of PFI funding, with £90 million in Defra financial support being withdrawn.

However, the council has said that it would not put its waste management project on hold as it had already secured enough funding to carry it through to completion.

Read more about Defra’s withdrawal of funding from the three councils.